Thursday, October 13, 2011

TROLLHUNTER - REVIEW

Trollhunter (Trolljegeren)
October 29, 2010
103 min
Norway (Norwegian)

Written and Directed by André Øvredal



“TrollHunter” is certain fun and strangely sophisticated in its storytelling and filmmaking techniques. Here is a mockumentary that you will not soon forget, a rare and thrilling (and sometimes disgusting) treat from Norway.

"TrollHunter” begins with a series of title cards informing us that it is “found footage.” It’s a phenomenon that began with the 1999 sleeper hit “The Blair Witch Project.” It is a cousin to the faux-documentary (informally known as mockumentarties) and sometimes one of the same. We’ve seen wild emergences of similar found footage films in recent years with films like “Cloverfield,” “Paranormal Activity,” and “The Last Exorcism.” With this outing we might call it a faux-documentary because it follows a group of filmmakers who begin making a student doc about a mysterious “bear poacher” in the mountainous region of northern Norway.

They find the supposed suspect, a mysterious man named Han, and follow him into a forest one night. They see flashes of light. They hear unexplainable sounds. Then they see Han (who sees them) and we get an answer. “Trolls!” he screams. He runs, the student filmmakers run, and the camera keeps running. It is a wonderful dive into the fantastical plot that follows. It doesn’t take long until we see the aforementioned things themselves.

While the mythical creatures themselves are fantastically grotesque (done with some very impressive CGI, especially for a foreign independent film like this), the settings we’re seeing them in feature stunning vistas. I am reminded of the barren Russian landscapes as seen in “The Return.” There is a cold beauty about them. Such is the case with many of the backdrops herein. It’s a clime most of us haven’t visited very oft in our films. It is refreshing like the very mountain air on the other side of the screen.

We learn a lot about trolls. There are forest trolls and mountain trolls. They live off a diet of rocks, but are more than eager to eat smaller critters of flesh and blood. Yeah, humans would probably be considered smaller critters to these leviathans. Just as it is well-known is zombie lore that only way to stop the undead is by “removing the head or destroying the brain” (to quote the newscaster from “Shaun of the Dead”), the way to fight trolls is with sunlight. We even get a rather scientific explanation during the film as to why this is so. I learned this tactic from “The Hobbit,” my very favorite book. Gandalf gets three trolls in an argument that lasts until day’s first light. They get turned into stone forever more. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of troll lore on display in this film is that they can detect the blood of a Christian. Priests might want to keep a young troll as a Christian-detector to determine the strength of their congregation. The cameraman was ashamed to confess his belief beforehand and it ends up putting the team in a very dangerous situation.

I am constantly impressed by the acting in all these faux-documentaries. As I said in my review for “Catfish,” this is an achievement regardless of whether it is real or not. Either way is it expertly crafted. In that film’s case the “performances” would obviously be more impressive if determined to truly be “performances.” Actors in such roles have yet to get award recognition for their performances, but I feel the need to shine the limelight on them now. The mysterious Hans (played by Otto Jespersen) is a terrific character. The filmmakers refer to him as a Norwegian hero. Hans certainly doesn't let that go to his head and in fact feels that he has one of the worst occupations imaginable (as the film's title character). Second to him is Thomas (played by Glenn Tosterud), who is the most charismatic of the film students (and everyone else they meet for that matter) and so spends the majority of his time in front of the camera instead of behind it.


"TrollHunter" builds nicely and ends in a pretty remarkable place (the highlight being an escape in a car). The film's poster suggests there is going to be monstrous troll and that is certainly the case. Hopefully that is not too much of a spoiler, but come on, that's the reason we're watching this film! However, it would be a fun experiment to subject someone to this film without telling them anything about it beforehand (especially not the title!).  It is solid entertainment done exceptionally well. The final title card(s) and clip do not feel necessary, but are funny nonetheless. Here's a film that has plenty of memorable moments and I full-heartedly recommend it to anyone who like's the sound of "TrollHunter."

"Do you think Michael Moore gave up after the first try?"
- Thomas



★★★★

CONTENT: mild language, scenes of creature terror, and some violence

Updated 3/1/13

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